Assistance dog gives autistic girl new voice

Blaine, Minn. (KARE) — Each morning the feet of hundreds of students shuffle off their buses and through the halls of Roosevelt Middle School in Blaine, Minnesota. This year, for the first time ever, four of those feet belong to a special educational aid that is changing the life of one student, who is in the midst of a jaw-dropping turnaround.

“It’s been amazing. Truly amazing,” marveled science teacher Bobbi Jo Rzeszutek.

In some ways, Sophia Reither is a typical 6th grader, described by her mom as silly, adventurous and headstrong. There is another word, however, that has defined her life more than others.

“Autism,” explained Sophia’s mom Michele Reither. “She is autistic, and she is socially awkward and she is not understood by most people. She is also a selective mute, which means she doesn’t communicate the same way as other kids.”

But her new assistance dog, Rylee, is helping Sophia make incredible strides.

“It brings out a person in Sophia that I don’t’ think her teachers saw in elementary school,” opined veteran math teacher Jill Augustine. “She’s volunteering, she can unclip herself from the dog, she goes to the board, is raising her hand, is a whole participant. And it’s just been incredible and exciting to see.”

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